Like the Occupy movement, the walkouts this week arose from a parallel form of community organizing – rather than a hierarchy of leadership from above. Workers have been mobilizing through social media – even as a host of community organizers redouble their commitment to traditional pavement pounding and grassroots gatherings.
Call it Occupy 2.0. Organizations with Twitter-ready names such as “Low Pay Is Not OK” and “Fast Food Forward” have helped galvanize the workers, and hashtags such as “#strikefor15” and “#iamfastfood” have instantly shared pictures of the protests and pin-pointed their locations in real time.
“The Occupy movement created sort of a consciousness, a political space to talk about income inequality, and these workers really relate to the idea of the 99 percent,” says Hilary Klein, director of Make the Road New York, a community advocacy group with offices throughout the city.
“So I think there has been a real upsurge in low-wage organizing in general since then,” continues Ms. Klein, who helped coordinate this week’s protests.
“Workers are saying, enough is enough, it’s time to organize, it’s time for something to change,” she says. “So I think the fast food strikes that you’re seeing this week are just one of a whole series of low-wage workers in different sectors organizing to unionize, to demand a living wage, and to say, ‘We deserve more respect and dignity on the job.’ ”
Yet while the strikes have received support from unions such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), headquartered in Washington, D.C., many are skeptical that a fast-food workers' union is viable, simply because of the nature of the business. The National Restaurant Association estimates that fast food restaurants have 75% employee turnover rates, for example.